Sunday, July 29, 2018

Summer 2018 has been good to me

By Elizabeth Prata

Goodbye summer! My summer break officially ends tonight. I'm headed to church in a short while, and then afterward stopping at Kroger to get lunches for the week. When I return home this evening I'll be doing Sunday-night-school-prep-stuff. Tomorrow is the big day!

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, and getting onto a different routine. I didn't have any drastic issues this summer. Charter internet went out for 14 hours one day and shortly after, it went out again for about 3 hours. I was sick for a day and a half. But that's it for negative things that happened! All was truly well overall.

 Meanwhile I can say that my favorite things this summer were:

1. Coffee in the morning
2. Being with my kitties
3. Naps
4. Books

What I'm looking forward to this school year is:

1. Helping a new bunch of kids
2. Doing a good job for the District
3. Meeting & growing with new staff
4. Seeing old staff again

Thanks for coming along in this My Day Summer 2018 journey with me. Bye, bed, books, coffee, cats, and naps. I'll miss you.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Apples, rainstorm, summer spouse

By Elizabeth Prata

Kroger grocery store does this neat thing with produce. If there is a container of cherry tomatoes, and one tomato inside that has split or gotten moldy, no one will buy that tray. So the store puts the container inside a red net bag and sells it for 99 cents. I take it home and pluck out the one bad cherry tomato and happily use the rest. If there's a peach that is slightly dented they'll put it in a red net bag with good ones and sell the bag for 99 cents. And so on. The produce in the red net bag is usually perfectly OK, except for maybe one item in it, and even then, 9 times out of 10 the one item is fine. I save a bundle buying fresh produce this way. Kroger told me that they like it because they hardly ever have to throw anything away.

For the first time I bought corn on the cob in the net bag. There were 4 good sized ears in it. I peeled them today and they look fine. The kernels aren't wrinkled and they look OK-fresh. I boiled them up today and ate one. I'll scrape the remaining cobs and roast them in a pan with butter, and add them to something later in the week. Maybe I'll make chili.

Another item I got in the marked down section was a red net bag of apples. These apples were all excellent and fine. And big! I am not hugely fond of apples, though, unless they are MacIntosh. You can't find Macs in the south very often. These were Gala and Grannysmith and something else. They are hard! What to do with a bunch of apples? I cubed them small and sauteed them in a bit of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

When they were soft enough I stopped. What can you do with a load of sauteed apples? Why, put some on top of your pancakes. The apples with the TB of brown sugar I'd used was sweet enough for me and I did not need to add maple syrup.

As for the remainder of the apples, (you can see them in the container in the top of the photo) they can go on cottage cheese, or into smoothies for a bit of sweetness. Roll them in a crepe, or into a wrap with some yogurt or even cream cheese. Ideas are endless.

We had some storms this early AM and when my weather alarm went off I got up at 3:00 to put shoes on and ready to go into the tub - the only interior 'room' I have since I only have two rooms in the apartment and there is no spot that doesn't have an outside wall. No worries though, the storms that did come through were mild compared to elsewhere in the area. All is well.

And since it is still summer, the lost hour I had staying up from 3:00-4:00 am could be re-couped this afternoon, which I duly did. Me and Murray caught a nap.

After the rain stopped this morning I took a walk around the yard. The raindrops hadn't dried yet.

The crepe myrtle are blooming gangbusters:

This bright red cardinal was preening and getting his feathers situated again after the torrent had stopped.

Ants were pouring out of this crack, but they were the tiny ants and you can't see them that well. The view is nice, though.

Amid all this flowery and rain soaked prettiness, there was a life and death struggle going on right under my nose. Cue Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom:

The caterpillar did not win.

Well, tomorrow is church and I look forward to getting together with my beautiful saints and worshiping my precious God. Then next week is the last week of summer break. I go back to school on Monday, July 30. It has been an exceptionally wonderful summer break, and I know I'll enjoy next week a lot, then of course, I'll enjoy meeting the new crop of kids. (After getting over the physical shock of having to actually get up and do stuff all day).

Here is a hilarious video from Kentucky Principal Gerry Brooks. Every word he says is true.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

So many eggplants

I had breakfast yesterday with a dear friend and her charming baby. It was one of those breakfast joints run by short order cook ladies in hairnets who know what they’re doing and call you ‘hon.’ Biscuits, grits, bacon, eggs… it was all there. We had a good chat.

On the way home, as I approached my driveway, I looked over at the pasture. The recent rain has greened up everything to a hue so vivid the pastures shone like emeralds. The wooden fence with the waving weeds intertwined with purple morning glories created its own living fence. Amid the greenery on the fence post was a bright red cardinal. I was glad to see him, a previous local yard cat had killed one and chased the others off. It’s nice to see them returning.

I snapped this from quite a distance and while walk-jogging. Sorry for the poor quality. He flew off before I could get a better one.

The fence is a little way down from my driveway, so I parked, left my bags by the mailbox as I went by and checked it, and hustled to walk close enough to grab a photo before the bird flew off. I snapped on from a great distance but then he spotted me and went his way.

Just then the mailman trundled down the street. I live on a one-way street and it’s a short street, so there is little traffic. I had put my camera bag and purse down on the ground by the mailbox when I came out to snap the photo of the bird, so I hustled to pick it up so he’d have room.

He had an Amazon package for me. Amazon Prime day was a couple of days ago, after all, lol. So we chatted for a while. The weather, the heat. He asked if the neighbors still lived on the other side of the house but I said, no they moved. It wasn’t a long chat. He had a route and a schedule to keep after all. But it was an American sort of morning, the breakfast joint, then admiring the rural beauty around me, the chat by the side of the road...

It’s garden season here in Georgia. That means people have veggies galore and lots of people share. I am in possession of three large eggplants at this moment. What to do?

I chopped up an onion and put it into a large stock pot with some oil. I turned the heat on medium. While the onions were browning, I diced two of the eggplants into cubes. I had two orange peppers rolling around in the fridge so I chopped them up as well.

The thing with eggplants, is they take on the flavor of what you put them with. Their flesh has a sponge-like consistency that soaks up whatever you put with it, including oil. That’s why if you’re frying them in slices, do not use a fork to turn them over because the tines will poke a hole and the oil will soak into the flesh. The flesh is also gray, not an appetizing color on a dish. So that is why I chopped up the orange peppers- to add some color.

When the onions had turned translucent, I added the cubed eggplant and a little water. Stir well. Add salt. Stir again. I covered it to retain the moisture as the eggplant cooked down.

Meanwhile I chopped cherry tomatoes.

I had bought a huge tub of greens on sale. The tub contained spinach, chard, mizuna, and kale. It was organic. It was a huge tub. I saw that I was not going to be able to finish the greens before they went bad. I added them to the pot of onions, peppers, and eggplant.
Both the eggplant and greens reduce a lot. When I added the pile of cubed eggplant it came to the top of the pot, When I added the greens, same thing. But they reduce. When the greens have wilted, add the tomatoes.

The key is to let the now mixed eggplant-onions-peppers-greens cook slowly. This lets the flavors blend. You can add what spices you like, but Italian spices make the most sense. I covered it, turned the heat to medium low, and let it do its thing.

At the end when I was almost ready, I took the cover off to allow the remaining liquid to evaporate.

The is a dish that’s good with cheese on top, or with pasta added in, or rice, or atop a good toasted Italian bread like focaccia or ciabatta. Make a submarine sandwich out of it by adding cooked pepperoni or cubed Italian ham. It’s versatile, and best of all, it uses a LOT of eggplant!

I have one more week of summer break. We go back on July 30. I am enjoying this summer break 2018 so very much.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Murray and his bed, plus my own likes and dislikes

I hope you all had a pleasant Independence Day holiday. Lots of people have the opportunity to take a day or two off around the holiday so maybe your days off are still going on!

I had some kind of stomach virus or more likely, food poisoning, sadly. I was down for the count from 1:30 on the holiday until now, and still not back 100%.

I mentioned the other day that my kitty Murray loves to sleep away the day under the bed covers. He loves something on his head, even my hand, which is cute. But his favorite is to sleep under the covers. He has a patented Murray head butt and gets his head under the sheet, leaps up, scrunches down like an army guy under the barbed wire, and makes his way toward the back upper corner where the pillow is.

Until I make the bed, he sleeps in the bedroom on the leather chair. The moment I come in, he gets excited and waits under the bed until I finish making it. Then he scoots in and goes under.

Today, it wasn't any later than usual but I guess Murray did not want to wait. He found a way to go up under the fitted sheet, lol. He really likes his bed.

Here are a few things you might not know about me:

I have a weakness for Office Products, pens, paper, paper clips, shiny desk things, more shiny things, and especially Post-its in all shapes and sizes but especially the transparent arrow ones.

I also love writing little tiny notes on little scraps of paper or Post-its. I have a tin box on my table where I put them after I scribble blog ideas or verses to look up further. The box got full so today I took out all the little papers and I'm going through them to cull and keep. In sifting through, I notice that I needs to be a little more specific. The note where I'd hastily scribbled "Go back and re-listen to the podcast at 10:43" isn't very helpful unless I put a name and a date to it, lol.

I do not like monograms.

I love taking photos of dilapidated barns and sheds. I think they're cool.

I am not too find of cities but I love taking photos of city-scapes. So it's a struggle because I'm never in a city but I'd love to walk around one in the cool October air taking lots of photos. Sipping a latte. With an artfully tied handmade knit scarf around my neck, lol. Look at this photo posted on Unsplash (a free-to-use photo repository). THIS is the kind of city photo I would LOVE to take! It's stunning. 

Meanwhile back in my rural town in tiny apartment, I guess tomorrow I'll make sure to make the bed earlier than ever, for Murray.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

How to cut an avocado

By Elizabeth Prata

Happy Fourth of July, you guys!

If you happen to be making guacamole today, or just want a fresh avocado on top of your salad, here is how to cut one. You guys probably know this already, but I have three avocado pics waiting to be used, so, here goes!

Slice the avocado from north pole to south pole, all around. Press your knife into the flesh until it reaches the pit. If it's ripe, you can easily pry the two halves apart. You know it's ripe if the exterior is not a fresh green but brownish, and soft to the touch.

Pry the pit out of the half it's in.

Pick up one of the halves and with a sharp knife gently score it from side to side in even lines. Then score it from top to bottom in even lines. Do the same with the other half. The more lines you make the smaller the resulting chunks will be. Make sure you score it down to the skin, but oops, not so hard that the knife pokes through into your hand!

Take a teaspoon, or a tablespoon if the avocado is larger, and press it between the skin and the avocado flesh. Scoop as if you're scooping ice cream. Pry out the chunks.

And that's it! You now have even pieces of avocado to pop onto your sandwich or on your salad. If you're making guacamole, I like to make smaller chunks because they are easier to mash in the bowl with the fork.

Enjoy your holiday, whether avocado is featured in it or not. :)

But I hope it is ;)

Monday, July 02, 2018

Results of my cooking today

I cooked today. My commitment to fresh food with no preservatives means I have to cook anything I want to eat. I can't just yank open the fridge door or the cupboard and grab something in a bag. Needing to be gluten free, I can't slap together a sandwich either.

Come with me on a tour through my kitchen today

I made for breakfast gluten free pancakes with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream. I also drizzled a light amount of honey. No syrup. I don't favor a lot of sweetness at once. The Namaste Perfect Flour blend makes light and fluffy pancakes, so they didn't really need a lot extra on top.

I had to turn on the oven. Ugh I hate to do it during the summer, but what are you going to do? I need to make food. I had bought dried chick peas, hoping they would be less expensive than canned and devoid of the usual preservatives that are usually in cans. I cooked them in the crock pot for two hours in high. I drained and rinsed them in cold water, then after dumping them out onto a large cookie sheet, I patted them dry, removing any of the paper shells that came off. I poured about 2 tablespoons of oil over them and a slight bit of salt. I swished the sheet around so the chick peas got covered, and popped into the oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. I added more salt and spices at the end. Adding them at the beginning tends to burn the spice onto the chick pea. My preference is curry powder, but you can add any spice to it.

I cut up some broccoli and put it back into the plastic bag  and added a bit of oil. Hold the top of the bag closed, and shake so the broccoli is covered in oil. Spread in a baking dish and add salt to taste. I repeated with the zucchini, and didn't want to dirty another pan so I put them together. When the edges of the broccoli are crisply they are done

Eggplants: friends gave me some eggplants from their garden. I cut them into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. I used to remove the skin but I don't d that any more. This dish is labor intensive to I skip the peeling now. I usually dredge them in milk-egg mixture but this time just the milk. Then dredge n gluten free flour. I cook on baking sheets at 400, turning once when they are brown and crisply, usually about 7 or 8 minutes. Skipping the egg this time was a mistake I think. The flour didn't stay attached that well to the eggplant. Maybe it was the fact it was gluten free flour this time. I don't know. They still came out yummy. When you put them into the fridge, they soften but a couple of minutes n my hot griddle crisps them right up again.

I ate a green salad for lunch with sliced radishes and olives (anything fermented is supposed to be a good probiotic). I had several of the eggplant rounds on the side.

The purple drink was another experiment. It was my snack today. Silken tofu was on way markdown so I bought it. I know it's supposed to be good for puddings and smoothies and the like. I looked for a recipe but for some reason they all had cocoa as an ingredient. I don't want cocoa, I don't have cocoa, and I did not want to go buy cocoa. I made up my own recipe.

I cut up a plum and and a nectarine, added some tofu and a glug of plain yogurt. I topped it with a bit of whipped cream and some crushed almonds. It was delicious.

I ended the day with dinner of sauted shrimp atop quinoa and green beans, and half of a seared potato. I'd cooked the potatoes in the crock pot earlier this morning. They come out pillowy soft, I love crockpot potatoes. Just wash the whole potato, put it in the crock, add about an inch of water, cover and cook on high. That's it. No need even to poke holes in the potato. I make a bunch and put them in the fridge to make home fries with, or add cubed to soup, or potato salad, any old way.

The shrimp were, of course, on waaaaay markdown. $3.15 for 16 mid-sized, deveined shrimp.I brought them home and cooked them immediately. I eat five at a time, so that will be three meals. If I can have a protein for $1 per serving or less, that is good. Tomorrow I'm going to have some of the shrimp in a pad Thai with rice noodles and the rest of the green beans. When I cook, I cook more than I need for that serving so as to save electricity and have some kind of ready-made food around. Or to use in leftovers.

I didn't end up boiling the red lentils, I'll do that tomorrow and make a kale-red lentil salad. I have to say, I have not had any gut issues since Friday when I went shopping.

So that will keep me a good while. I've got spinach and kale in the fridge, along with some cherries, plums, and strawberries, and a few more radishes and celery rolling around. I'm trying to go two weeks between grocery shopping forays. We'll see.

Cooking Day and what a great summer sky!

I had an absolutely terrific time at church yesterday, and then it was one of the every-other-Sundays for small group at one of the leaders' houses where I also had a terrific time.

The sky on the drive between church and small group was amazing! Lots of dramatic clouds against slate grey skies or pure azure skies, and sometimes both. Take a look-

It's so wonderful how the Word refreshes. I always feel so good on Monday. We are going through the Book of John and yesterday we happened to be at John 3:16-21. Our elder Scott did a fantastic job preaching it. It was thrilling to hear the old, old story again. The music was piercing in a good way, bringing many to tears ("Amazing Grace" will do that) and the Confessional time our other Elder Allen taught was also a time of refreshing, too.

Then after talking a while in the aisles when the service was done we departed for small groups at various homes. Despite being on the threshold of the holiday vacation week a good many people came for hot dogs and hamburgers. We spoke of His glorious and shared insights from the sermon, eventually departing in the summer gloaming with His love and these precious truths buried in our hearts and minds.

Today I've scheduled a cooking day. When you choose not to eat any processed food, and are a vegetarian, and are trying different foods to reduce gut inflammation, it takes work and effort to ensure there is actually food in the fridge to eat. You can't just open the cupboard or the fridge and yank out something, it has to be made by me first.

A friend with a large garden gave me some eggplants (yay friend! Thank you!) I will cut those into rounds, dredge them in some gluten-free flour and milk, and bake. I'll also bake/roast chick peas. I need to boil up some red lentils. Red lentils cook quickly so that's good. Also will put some potatoes in the crock pot and cut up some radishes and carrots and celery for snack.

I'd bought one ready made food on Friday: roasted crunchy green peas. I gobbled them, they were so good! I roast everything, including chick peas, so I don't know why I hadn't thought of peas. The Kroger label showed only a few ingredients; peas, palm oil, salt and unfortunately, food coloring. I enjoyed them very much. My weakness is salty-crunchy foods. Nuts are very expensive, potato chips and other processed snacks don't agree with me, so I try other things like chick peas and now green peas.

Speaking of chick peas, I found them dry in a 1-pound bag. I'm going to cook them in the crock pot after the potatoes are done. This is the first time I'll have done that. Then I'll roast them. I had been buying them in the can, which is convenient. All you have to do is rinse them and pat them dry, then scatter on a cookie sheet and roast. Occasionally shake the pan to ensure even roasting. Add spices and salt near the end. (Adding spices at the beginning only ensures that it will burn onto the chick pea.)

However, I am not a fan of canned food with all the salt and preservatives. Rinsing them well does take care of all that, but still. It's more expensive to buy cans also. I'm going to try the dry and see how it works.

I'd made a red lentil/quinoa salad last week that was terrific, so I will definitely repeat that. It sure is a challenge when you can't have bread and all you want in the summer is a sandwich. It's fast, filling, and easy to make a sandwich and there are so many healthy sandwiches to make. But no more. I've been eating green salads at lunch filled with lots of goodies instead, so that is OK.

There was some silken tofu for sale which I scooped up. I am going to try a silken tofu and chia seed 'pudding,' but all the recipes I've seen so far call for cocoa powder. I don't want a chocolate based dessert. I'll try it without cocoa powder. Or I might try a smoothie with the tofu and chia seeds, milk, and strawberries.

I've got a packed day planned, and I'm not even leaving the house, lol. Cooking, listening to music, reading, need to vacuum :(, writing a difficult essay for the other blog on hypocrisy (these kind of essays are sad and tearful), working with yesterday's photos and more!

I'm still reading Moby Dick. I savor it. It is also challenging, hence the slow going. But the language! I love it. Like this:
Like some poor devils ashore that happen to know an irascible great man, they make distant unobtrusive salutations to him in the street, lest if they pursued the acquaintance further, they might receive a summary thump for their presumption.

It's so beautiful! I love language like Melville writes. Now you can see why I like to savor it.

Time to get dressed and going. I hope you all have a marvelous day.